‘As if you could kill time without injuring eternity.’ Henry David Thoreau
Here is one way to think about time: every midnight, each and every one of us gets a 24-hour time allowance. Each and every one of us. It doesn’t matter how rich or how poor you are; whether you are a beggar or a king. It doesn’t matter what your family background is. Nor does it matter what talents you have been bestowed with, or what ambitions you nurture. You get 24 hours.
But here’s the unfair part: our commitments are not all the same. Some of us have families to care for; some of us have jobs that pay a pittance, but that we need in order to make ends meet; some of us have to spend some of our time allowance arguing with abusive partners, or finding the energy to ask a favour from a ruthless boss, or commuting to our work for 3 hours every day. Not to mention doing all the daily minutia of paying bills, arranging for the plumber to come and fix the pipes in the kitchen, doing the dishes. These are all commitments we cannot get out of easily, even just for one day; and some of them we may not want to get out of anyway. So a big chunk of our time allowance will be spent on honouring these commitments. And very often, this doesn’t seem fair. A single parent vs. a single parent with a large support network vs. two parents working as equal partners, each putting in their share of work and with two sets of grandparents helping out – big difference in how the time allowance gets spent.
But then, there are other types of commitments we spend our 24-hour daily allowance on. These are the types of commitments we got into due to a sense of obligation, or guilt, or misplaced loyalty – commitments we could easily avoid but we don’t realise their implications at the time we take them on. The commitment to attend a colleague’s leaving do, even though we barely knew them when we were working together, and couldn’t stand them anyway. The commitment to complete a Masters degree for no other reason in the world than because everybody else is doing it. The commitment to clean the house every week for two hours, despite living on one’s own, just in case the neighbours come round to visit. It’s amazing the number of commitments people take on just because they are afraid of saying ‘no’, or afraid of being juded negatively by others.
And then there are the tons of commitments we take on constantly despite the fact that we already have lots of trouble staying on top what we already have to deal with: the monthly school boards, the fortnightly reading group, the weekly French class – all sounding like excellent ideas at the time of taking them on; all encroaching on our lives and leading to even more guilt for not doing them properly.
What counts as a silly commitment for one person may be absolutely necessary for another. The point is not to evaluate the kinds of commitments that are or are not worthwhile in general, but to consider which fulfill these criteria for us. And then gradually eliminating those commitments which we think do not fulfill any of our personal criteria for being part of our lives.
Why should you do this? Because on top of all your commitments, if you’re reading this blog regularly, you probably are one of those people who wants to create legacy. And you can, no matter what your circumstances are (be honest with yourself).
Like each and every one of us, you get your 24-hour times allowance each day at midnight, and apart from the time you need to spend on the bare necessities of life, you have a choice in how you spend it. Some of this time allowance will go on those commitments that you cannot or do not want to get out of. And it is only by getting rid of the rest of your commitments, the ones that you make out of guilt or the desire to be liked, that you can free up the remaining part of your daily time allowance for the purpose of creating legacy.
The time is now.
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